If you were nervous about flying with baby, just wait until they turn one! I hesitate to call babies in this age category toddlers, though technically if they *toddle* I guess they’re toddlers.
I still called Bub a baby even when he turned three and was precariously close to being deemed a preschooler.
But I digress…
From Flying with Baby to Flying with Toddler…
Even if you have a well-traveled infant, all bets are off once they enter the world of young toddlerhood. Our son was the kind of easy, dreamy infant that if he wasn’t mine I would not have believed it. However, on his first birthday, he lay down and threw a fit over something minuscule. I was left wondering what happened to my angel baby?
He’s still here. But, as things change for your little one with toddlerhood, you need to change your expectations. And, you need to come up with new tricks for managing sticky situations. Flying with a toddler is no exception. And young, pre-verbal toddlers can definitely give you a run for your money.
Our Experiences Flying with a Young Toddler…
Due to school and work commitments, we really did not fly with Bub too much during this age. We went to Jamaica when he was 16mos., a trip to Cayo Santa Maria, Cuba, and a biggie to Walt Disney World. With our daughter, we also had two trips at this age – Florida, and Jibacoa, Cuba.
We did NOT have any major (or minor, for that matter) incidents, although I sure fretted before each and every flight, more so than just flying with baby.
Flying with a Toddler: Biggest Concerns
Our son was (and still is) busy. He couldn’t sit still for more than 10 minutes. Still can’t! He was slow to talk and, if he got frustrated, he’d sometimes yell, hit, or bite. These were tough stages and phases to get through.
Even though his sister flew like a champ at this age, I was nervous about flying with him. In spite of all my in-flight experience and travel preparation, I was pretty terrified that we’d be the recipient of massive stink eye. Truthfully I don’t care about this, but I tend to mouth off and might get myself in trouble. Or, even worse, I was afraid we’d be one of those news stories and get kicked off the plane.
Flying with a Toddler: The Reality
Even though our son was so busy, as a young toddler he flew well. As with his earlier travels as a young infant and an older baby, we did not have relaxing, stress-free flights. But he did sleep for some of them. And though we tired of multiple rounds of peek-a-boo, he did not, so we kept going.
Plus? Snacks. Lots and lots of snacks.
For our first flight when my daughter was a toddler, I discovered the power of potato chips and have not looked back. Snacks that are fun and/or cute have excellent staying power. Always try to do salty instead of sweet (plus salt = more drinking which is good for clearing ears). Save lollipops or gummies for landing so the sugar is not burnt off mid-flight. Juice is allowed as a treat, but watered down… Again, to try to cut down the sugar load.
We traveled with a portable dvd player, but the iPad was the biggest game-changer for us. Our son had a few favourite apps and shows, and would happily sit and play or watch wearing his super-cute toddler headphones. I actually watched chunks of movie during this stage, so I fully embrace technology.
Flying with a Toddler: Extra Consideration
You know your toddler. And you know best how to manage their moods and what can set them off. Hunger and tiredness are obvious ones. On travel days, both are difficult to avoid. Being prepared with lots of snacks and their comfort items at the ready can help.
If you’re planning on ditching the pacifier or bottle soon, maybe do so after your trip. Although I’ve heard logic that things are thrown off so it’s an easy way to let those items disappear, for my own sake I’ve never tried. Just knowing I had a “dodie” or “bubba” at the ready put me at ease whenever it seemed a toddler meltdown was imminent.
And the usual flying with baby advice holds here with toddlers… Try to keep them eating, drinking, or sucking during takeoff and landing, whether that’s by finger foods, nursing, a bottle, or a pacifier. Don’t be afraid to administer a bit of baby pain relief medicine if you think their ears are in pain. Both of my kids flew at nap times but did not sleep during their nap times. Usually they dropped off right before landing (a joy to wake up, let me tell you!). But, believe it or not, a toddler sleeping on a plane can be a thing.
Flying with a Toddler: Tales from the Road
Our flight to Jamaica was a dream, with Bub passing out about an hour after taking off and then playing and reading for the hour or so remainder once he woke up.
It was enough to make me smug to think it would happen again for our flight home.
Imagine my surprise when he drained his bubba and did NOT fall asleep as planned. WestJet does not serve milk on board (I was tempted to clean them out of the little milks used for coffee) so he and I had a little WWF match in our seat for about 90 minutes. He writhed and squirmed until (blessedly) the in-flight TVs finally restarted and distracted him enough to fall asleep.
On one flight to Walt Disney World, I was solo with him on my lap. Again, he dozed for most of it until he woke up and unleashed the contents of his stomach (including a full bubba of milk – blech!) all over us. That prompted his sister to do the same. It took a while to clean us all up, and we didn’t smell pretty. Once we made it to Disney our first stop was The Polynesian’s laundromat!
We all survived. We did not get kicked off planes. And people were actually friendly and nice to us. The horror stories and their accompanying comments on the Internet do not reflect most people’s realities. At all.
I feared this stage of flying with baby the most. Truthfully, as people, toddlers are generally easier to manage. It’s their unpredictability that drives fear into parents before they pre-board (or choose not to pre-board).
As with before every flight as a parent, you just have to be prepared.
Useful Tips for Flying with a Toddler:
- This is your first opportunity flying with baby that baby can comprehend instructions. Telling them about the trip will help get them excited. Telling them what is expected of them can actually help. Toddler travel books are a great idea!
- Have your carry-on bag stocked and organized. Do not waste precious luggage space with goody bags for adults.
- Have that tablet loaded and charged. But DO have some old-school distractions on hand and try to offer those first. Once the tech comes out it’s hard to go back.
- SNACKS. MORE SNACKS. AND EVEN MORE SNACKS.
- Under twos still do not require their own seat on an airplane. But if the flight is long and/or your baby is big, you may find the expense of their own seat and the struggle of installing their car seat as worthy investments in your sanity.
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